Don't Just Post Photos, Post Stories

John Haydon Chief Heretic and Pyrotechnician, John Haydon - Digital Marketing and Fundraising

Posted on May 16th 2013

Don't Just Post Photos, Post Stories

Fotolia 46222866 S Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!

The Internet is slowly but surely becoming one big picture book.

Instagram and Pinterest have grown at astronomic rates precicely because they allow people to easily create, curate and share pictures. And Facebook has placed more importance on pictures, with cover images, full screen viewing, and newsfeed preferences.

So photos are huge. But simply posting photos is not enough. You have to post stories!

A powerful story in a photo earns every one of those thousand words:

  • By making people take action.
  • By getting people angry.
  • By reenergizing volunteers.
  • By moving the needle.

Here are ten tips for creating photos that tell stories:

1. Show action - Forget the chummy picture of volunteers with their arms around each other. There’s no story in that. Instead take pictures of them doing what they do.
2. Show relationship - Include more than one person in your photos, or maybe a person and their dog like Best Friends Animal Society does. This way, you embed “relationship” in the photo which will trigger all sorts of emotions in in the viewer.
3. Get people angry - The New York Times found that anger, awe and anxiety are the top emotions associated with sharing. Create images that get people angry like this one from the Humane Society of the United States:

Facebook Mastery Series 2 How to Get New Facebook Fans for Your Nonprofit Facebook Page.061 Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!
4. Use Infographs - Any combination of information and image used to tell a story can be incredibly powerful. Idealware’s new report, Infographics for Outreach, Advocacy, and Marketing is a super useful guide to understanding and creating infographics.
5. Use black and white - You can use photoshop or Touch Color to tell a story by coloring part of a black and white photo, ala Pleasantville:

pleasantville Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!
6. Use words - Many times a picture needs a few words to help the viewer along in the story, like in this photo from the Trevor Project.

One of my favorite iPhone apps for adding text to pictures is Over by Potluck which allows you to easily add text to photos, like so:

556962 10151292277228979 456059684 n Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!
7. Use location - Are people growing organic vegetables on a farm? Are they building a house for a family in need? If so, show it.
8. Use your fans - Encourage your fans and followers to share their stories in the form of pictures. Create a photo contest, or just pay attention when they post photos to your Facebook Page.
9. Show contrast - take something familiar and turn it on it’s head to tell a story, like Oreo did with their gay pride cookie.

Gay Pride Oreo Dont Just Post Photos. Post Stories!
10. Show a beginning, middle and end - Create a series of photos that show a beginning, middle and end. For example, imagine an amputee entering a rehab, then working with a physical therapist for weeks, and finally going home to be with family.

You can post these these photos one by one, or create a single image that includes entire story (ideally you would do both).

Let your heart be your guide

We are storytellers by nature, so our best tool for creating great stories is our hearts. Tune into yours and listen carefully.

If you listen carefully, you will begin to hear a great story. Then post it on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to see if it speaks as loudly to your community.

What’s your #1 tip for telling stories with pictures?


John Haydon

Chief Heretic and Pyrotechnician, John Haydon - Digital Marketing and Fundraising

John Haydon is one of the most sought-after digital marketing experts for nonprofits and charities. He has spoken at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, New England Federation of Human Societies, New Media Expo, BBCon, Social Media 4 Nonprofits, AFP New Jersey, and several others.

John is the author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies and Facebook Marketing All-In-One (Wiley), and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, Social Media Examiner and npEngage. John is also an instructor for Charityhowto and MarketingProfs University. 

Clients include: Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, San Francisco Goodwill, WaterAid America, Greater Ohio Lupus Foundation, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Komen Greater NYC, The Boston Foundation, The Commonwealth Foundation, No Kid Hungry, Epic Change, Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Community Music Center of Boston, United Way Los Angeles, Goodwill San Fransisco, TechSoup, Razoo, VolunteerHub and Community TechKnowledge.


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Drew Larison
Posted on May 19th 2013 at 8:39AM

Great post! The only thing I would say that interferes with this is that Facebook doesn't allow you to promote posts that are images with words. That will puhind told on a lot of these tips.